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Chancellor: ‘UK trade will be better outside EU’

UK trade will thrive despite the introduction of UK border checks after the Brexit transition period, the chancellor has said.

Sajid Javid admitted frictionless trade with the EU would be “over” but said that Britain would have a “better future”.

Earlier, an industry body warned border checks on imports could cause fresh food supply problems.

But Mr Javid said supply chains “would be protected”.

“Of course, we are not going to have completely frictionless trade because we have left the [EU] customs union and single market,” he told BBC economics editor Faisal Islam.

“That is a deliberate decision, because we have a better future as an independent sovereign nation trading with European friends, but also trading more so with the rest of the world.”

He said the government would defend automotive and other industries that rely on frictionless trade, promising “complete equivalence”.

“We are working closely with the car sector,” he said. “We’ve been clear there will be some changes but that can be done in a way that the sector… continues to thrive.”

Finance sector

Britain left the EU on 31 January but remains subject to its rules until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

The government has vowed to strike a trade deal by then, but some warn it will not have time to reach a comprehensive agreement.

Commenting on Britain’s goals, Mr Javid said he had urged the EU to consider Britain’s financial sector as “equivalent”, in order to protect its access to the bloc.

This was despite the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, having said earlier on Tuesday that this was not up for discussion.

The chancellor said he was confident the bloc would change its mind: “Look back at withdrawal agreement, there were things that EU would reject… only to change their mind later on.”

He added there had been “private discussions” with the EU that made him “very confident about the future”.

Earlier, the British Retail Consortium warned that post-Brexit transition border checks could cause fresh food supply problems unless there was a “massive upgrade” in border facilities.

It said thousands of trucks, including those carrying fresh food, could be held up at Channel ports.

The warning came after the government said the checks would mean extra paperwork for both EU and UK firms.

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, told an event on Monday that the end of frictionless trade was “inevitable”.

“The UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union, so we will have to be ready for the customs procedures and regulatory checks that will inevitably follow.”

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